"Wisdom begins with putting the right name on a thing"
(Old Chinese Proverb)

Patronyms and Accents

It was agreed that if a name contained a patronym it would be stated in the possessive case (e.g., Smith’s Longspur), and if the patronym ended with an s the apostrophe would be followed by an s (e.g., Ross’s Turaco).

There also was general agreement to spell a patronym the way the person spelled it, even where the name was not English and the English spelling of the name differed (e.g., spelling a German name with an umlaut over the u , not the English ue ).

Initially the committee decided to use diacriticals on all words that in the language of origin were spelled with accents, even though accents are not used in English spelling, such as the French grave and acute accents, the Spanish cedilla and accents for Spanish place names, and the German umlaut. A major point of contention was whether to adopt the glottal and other diacritical marks used in the Hawaiian language since, unlike other accent marks, they are almost totally unfamiliar to English-speakers. The committee decided against using such accents for that reason. This then led to a reconsideration of the use of accents generally. In the end the committee chairs decided to follow the precedent of the American Ornithologists Union (AOU) Committee on Classification and Nomenclature and the New York Times Atlas among others and to use no accents, except umlauts for certain proper names of people.

Supporting this difficult decision is our view that the list of International English names is not a guide to correct pronunciation, the sole purpose of using accents in local languages of the world. That said, the committee is neutral as to the wishes of authors of regional works, who should feel free to add pronunciation marks that they consider to be appropriate for their intended audience.